Washrooms de facto sites for drug consumption

It’s a crisis Bruce Wallace hoped he wouldn’t be caught in again.

It’s a crisis Bruce Wallace hoped he wouldn’t be caught in again.

In the early ‘90s, Victoria, along with the rest of the province, was going through an overdose crisis, specifically with heroin, also called China White.

“I’ve seen how devastating an overdose crisis can be and how fast the harms can really go,” said Wallace, who was a social worker in downtown Victoria during the crisis. “Way too many people died…and now we’re right here in the same spot.”

Now, Wallace, a collaborating scientist with the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. and assistant professor with the University of Victoria, said the city is experiencing a similar crisis again.

According to a new report called Every Washroom, de facto consumption sites in the epicentre of an overdose public health emergency, washrooms, specifically in health and social services agencies and shelters in Victoria, are becoming de facto sites for drug consumption.

Over a roughly six-month period, drug consumption in local agency washrooms has doubled to 58 per cent from 28 per cent in 2015.

Wallace, who co-authored the report, said the overdose epidemic can be attributed to three factors: high rates of homelessness in Victoria, incomplete harm reduction services, where people have access to supplies, but no place to inject them; and the introduction of fentanyl.

“It’s that combination which we found is really creating significant stress on some of the social service agencies and how they’re the epicentre of this crisis in Victoria, specifically shelters and harm reduction agencies that are distributing these harm reduction supplies,” Wallace said.

In the report, which includes information from focus groups with shelter residents, and shelter and harm reduction staff, participants said they used agency washrooms over other locations because they are more safe, private and more accessible.

“It’s safer, there’s people around if something bad happens …staff are there if problems occur,” said one person in the report.

However, with more people using washrooms to inject drugs, it’s having an impact on agency staff, who are now forced to check washrooms daily for potential overdoses and administer naloxone when necessary.

In April, the provincial health officer declared drug-related overdoses to be a public health emergency. Between 2011 and 2015, there were an average of 19 illicit drug-related deaths per year in Victoria. That number increased in 2016, with 29 illicit drug-related deaths in the first six months.

In the past, there was a needle exchange service on Cormorant Street, but it was shut down in 2008 due to community complaints. Since then, Wallace said the region has lacked a “very significant service,” and created a model in which people get harm reduction supplies from secondary distribution sites such as AIDS Vancouver Island or the CoolAid Society, but have no place to inject their drugs.

The report renews calls for the implementation of overdose response strategies including continuing to support and expand the use of naloxone, on the spot drug testing to detect fentanyl, and creating a supervised consumption site.

Alex Holtom, a steering committee member with YES2SCS, a group advocating for a safe injection site in Victoria, said people injecting drugs in bathrooms, alleys or abandoned stairwells has become the norm.

“It’s because you have so many people who are criminalized and stigmatized for their drug use that they end up having to use in unsafe, isolated places,” she said, adding the use of washrooms to inject drugs has increased over the past six to eight months.

“With supervised consumption sites you’re seeing the person right there, you’re seeing what their reaction to the use is, you’re getting to monitor them from start to finish and the after affects, and being able to connect them to other services.”

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Architect plans to revitalize Victoria ‘gateways,’ including Wellburns building

Wood-construction apartments planned for Scott, Wellburn’s buildings

Arrest made after hydraulic rescue pump stolen from temporary Saanich fire hall

VicPD K-9 unit called in to help locate suspect, stolen equipment

CRD explores option to use Oak Bay Lodge for people who are homeless

Motion asks staff to work with BC Housing, Island Health on possibilities

Woman who talked to unconscious husband, a Victoria police officer, for 30 years focus of study

Ian Jordan suffered a head injury when he and another officer were on their way to a call in Victoria in September 1987

Public tips lead to arrest in alleged random assault on Victoria bus

June 19 incident was recorded by onboard camera

VIDEO: Victoria’s Raging Grannies call for end to public funding of for-profit senior homes

Organizer says COVID-19 has made senior home issues more apparent

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

B.C. ports part of data integration project to protect marine ecosystems

The $1.2 M federally funded program will draw crucial baseline data from Canada’s three coastlines

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Most Read